I continue to write and seek to express myself and hopefully encourage others along the way too.
This past year has seen my writing develop in different ways, and less so on this blog than I would’ve liked. I’ve been taken up with writing more sermons due to an increased teaching role at my church. And, one of the unique writing projects I completed this year was a weekly review focussed on Supercoach (fantasy AFL) during the footy season. This meant that time and dedication to writing in this space dissipated from previous years. And to be honest, another year of lockdowns had an affect on this too.
Nevertheless, I continue to commit myself to writing. I find it is the best way for me to express myself and to find clarity of thought. It’s also an enjoyable experience to have written, to finally hit publish on a post about an idea that I’ve been mulling away on for a while.
Having only posted 13 times in the past 12 months you’d think people would simply stop reading the articles and posts I have here. However, this hasn’t been the case. There are still a number of popular posts that continue to have traction with people, which is certainly pleasing as a writer! It seems that I had about the same amount view this blog as I did last year, which is to say just over 9200 hits all up.
As to what has been popular this past year, here are the top five posts for 2021:
If you’d like to explore more of what has been popular on here in previous years you can do so here: Top posts for 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015. I also have a collection of writings published elsewhere, which you can find here.
I’ll be honest. I’m not particularly satisfied with the balance of my reading this year. Sure, I well and truly went over my goal of 26 books for the year, but the balance of authors and topics just wasn’t right. If I was to analyse it I would say that I didn’t have enough ‘old’ books, ones which might have helped my understanding of the present world from the perspective of a different time and place. Perhaps this might change as I begin to think about next year’s books.
Nevertheless, there were some great books I did read this year, many of which I would strongly recommend to others and, in fact, have purchased as Christmas presents to fellow pastoral staff members. The books below are all books I gave 5 out of 5. In my opinion they were excellent.
The Care of Souls by Harold L. Senkbeil It was no surprise this book won a 2020 Christianity Today Book Award. While Senkbeil is not of my denominational persuasion, it is clear that he has a great grasp on what it is to minister to people in a congregation. The book walks through aspects of pastoral ministry, highlighting the need to pastor souls within the system of the whole. What I found most helpful was the reminder to focus on people over programs, and the encouragement to give thought to helpful ways in which to care for people in life and death.
Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund This book has also won many plaudits and has been promoted heavily in certain circles. I loved the reminder of Jesus’ own description of himself as ‘gentle and lowly.’ I found the first half of the book the most compelling—so compelling that I used Ortlund’s angle in a sermon I preached on Matthew 11:28-30. In a time of busyness, change and added pressure, this book helped to remind me of how Jesus is the one in whom we can rest.
Spirit and Sacrament by Andrew Wilson Our young-adults group did a four-week series on spiritual gifts earlier this year. I read plenty about the topic but found this book most helpful. While the Baptist in me had a few quibbles, the understanding of the Spirit’s work through the gifts today helped solidify my continuationist position. This is not a long book, but it is profound and gets straight to the core issues surrounding spiritual gifts and ordinances.
Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times by Peter L. Steinke What other book does one need to read in the times we live when everyone seems anxious, weary, and stressed by the pressures of the day. Despite being written a little while ago, it is still helpful and helps the reader understand the ‘system’ of our churches. It can help us appreciate, not only understand, the levels of anxiety within our communities, and also how best to lead a congregation in these times. An excellent read for anyone in pastoral ministry
Visit the Sick: Shepherding the Afflicted and Dying in Your Congregation by Brian Croft This is a short practical guide to help pastors and pastoral carers help those who are sick. Brian Croft uses his years of expertise in ministry to provide practical suggestions in how to care for those who are locked-in due to their health, or who need visiting in hospital or at home, or who need to be cared for because loved ones are dying. A perfect book to work through with a group of people and apply it to your local church community.
Read to Lead by Jeff Brown I jumped on one of those pre-release deals to gain a whole lot of other resources alongside this book. I suspect that any of us who have written at TGCA or in these ‘Year in Books’ series would agree that our leadership has been helped by our reading. This book offers both anecdotal and research-based insight into the value of reading. It is a personal growth book with the sole purpose of encouraging leaders to read more and make time for it. I was inspired by the reminder of how the accumulation of reading helps widen and mould my leadership. The importance of reading can’t be underestimated.
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright With the 20th year anniversary of 9/11 this year, there were plenty of books, podcasts, and documentaries reflecting on its impact. I found myself listening to this in-depth audiobook, covering everything from the beginnings of Al-Qaeda, the political climate of the 1970s through to 2001, and the formation of those participants involved in the event itself. It was a compelling 15-hour listen, and I’d recommend it.
Expositional Preaching by David R. Helm Again, this book isn’t a long one but is a great reminder of the importance and place of expositional preaching in the life of the church. While there is a brief case made for the priority of this preaching in the church, I found the practical aspects formational. Topics such as the importance of systematic theology; the balance of contextualisation; the arrangement of material in the sermon; effectiveness through understanding your audience, make this book a great gift for your pastoral team or a book to work through together.
Leadership is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say – and What You Don’t by L. David Marquet Leadership has evidently been a theme in my reading this year, and this was probably the best of the secular leadership books I read. Marquet is known for his TED talk and first book, Turn The Ship Around, which focusses on how, as the commander of a poor performing submarine, he made it the best performer by enabling others to make decisions. Leadership is Language focusses further by highlighting the need to not only ask others to collaborate but also to give people time to pause and reflect on what might help make the work more effective.
I found this book helpful in providing me with better questions to ask. Marquet provides great examples of when and how to put intentional leadership into practice through the language we use, rather than stifling collaboration through directive and authoritarian questions. This is certainly a worthwhile read for those of us leading teams of people.
This is now the eighth year in a row I’ve published a post that outlines my favourites books for the year. You can go back and have a read of previous years here: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.
Below is a guest post by Steve, a member of my church, who writes a terrific little thoughtful piece that will make you think and have a chuckle at the same time. Enjoy.
Recently my Mum passed away after a short illness. She was a generous soul. The whole experience has triggered a number of thoughts, including her lived example and images of soft serve ice cream.
It’s a metaphor.
Soft serve ice cream is hardly a food, certainly not one that is healthy or that we need but on occasion it is okay to have as a treat. In fact I believe it is very good to do so, and one day we won’t be able to treat our loved ones because they have gone; either passed on, or just away.
In some ways my two children are smarter and, in some cases, even wiser than me (they must have had a good upbringing). I’ve had a tough time at work recently, actually over the last couple of years, and one of my children has repeatedly said to me that I should retire. True enough it would be good for my mental health. The reality is that it would mean quitting my job without an alternative source of income, which is not an ideal situation. Financially I am in an okay spot, and working keeps me in a good spot. However, my intention is not to store up riches upon riches as an end to itself but rather to prudently save. With enough extra for soft serve ice cream once in a while, of course. Neither extreme is good for me spiritually. To ask a rhetorical question – Why does God bless us with gifts, talents and finances if not to give them away?
The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-20 are helpful for me in this.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Are there certain lessons which we only truly learn through age and personal experience? Even though it ends up being an expensive way to learn. Probably.
Of the times that I could have treated my children but didn’t for fear of spoiling them (and there were not many of those) I wish that I could go back and treat them ten times over. Perhaps this is also an impact of COVID lockdowns.
We have all lost a lot, not the least of which is time, which is difficult to replace. I get the impression from reading the gospels that Jesus was always in the moment, blessing as the occasions presented and required.
If I could have time with my Mum back what would I want to do?
In my last post I described walking through Hebrews 11 like entering a corridor at the museum. Paintings hanging on the walls, dim light from the ceilings and windows, and statues and busts of important people lining each side. Next to each of their depictions sits a plaque with the little description we find in Hebrews 11, all beginning with “By faith…”
They are highlighted by the writer because they are people who provide an example of what living by faith means for those who come after. For us.
All of these people mentioned in Hebrews 11 are commended for the faith they had. They didn’t receive what was promised to them in this life, but they continued to live by faith because God had revealed to them something greater. A future together as his people, living under his right rule, in his perfectly created place.
In v39-40 we read,
“All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.” (CSB)
The writer reminds us that living by faith is for the long-haul. It’s no short, sharp, snap discipleship program. It’s a lifetime of living by faith. Throughout the chapter we read of those who in their lifetime suffered and did not acquire the fulfilment of the promises given to them by God. Yet, they endured in the faith, by faith, so that they would be made perfect at a later time. And that later time is when all of God’s people are gathered. When all of God’s people are together in the place he has set out for us.
All the saints, whether old or new, will be made perfect when all of God’s people are together. Whether that be the Old Testament saints, the Hebrews themselves, or whether that be us. There is a future hope of being together with God in perfection.
So as we walk this corridor of heroes of the faith we can be encouraged to live by faith ourselves. To be followers of Jesus for the marathon of life, not just the sprint of this season. With this in mind, here are six ways this passage encourages us to live by faith for the long-haul.
First, Hebrews 11 helps us when we are in times of doubt.
While doubt is not the opposite of faith, it certainly has an impact on our faith. Whether we are struggling to see God, doubting his goodness and faithfulness, or when we’re confused by what he is doing in our lives then we can lose sight of what he has promised. Hebrews 11, however, enables us to see that he is indeed faithful to his promises and that those who went before us held fast to Christ knowing there was something better in the future, something worth holding on to.
Second, Hebrews 11 helps us when we are struggling with sin.
We might feel plagued with sin. We might feel guilty. We might feel ashamed. We might be holding on to certain sins like a comfort blanket, always reasoning with ourselves that we will be able to battle with it and get over it at some point in the future. Instead, we can take confidence in knowing that Christ has that sin, has forgiven us for it, and is in the process of making us perfect in him. Therefore, we live by faith that he has taken the sins of the past, present, and future, and has dealt with them decisively for eternity.
Third, Hebrews 11 helps us when we wonder what we’re meant to be doing for God.
Those who were commended were people who lived by faith. They didn’t sit and wait around to be taken to a better place. They didn’t live in laziness, twiddling their thumbs wondering what they were to do. Instead, they trusted God in the ‘now’, obeying his commands and trusting his judgements. The future is in God’s hands and for us we are to trust and obey. Anyone remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey”?
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
This may involve choices we make about our lifestyle, or our career, or our relationships, or our spending habits, or our social media use, or our use of time, or our service, or our attitudes, or our behaviours. God, of course, doesn’t just deal with one aspect of life but the whole of life. Our response is to live by faith.
Fourth, Hebrews 11 helps us know we’re not alone.
Thank goodness we aren’t the centre of the world. We aren’t the centre of reality. God is. And we see through this list that we also need to put our life in perspective.
God is the one who is to be the centre of our worship, we aren’t.
God is to be the centre of our lives, we aren’t.
Yet, God is with us. We are not alone.
Further, we know that so so so many people have gone before us, treading out a path like a walking track in the bush. Someone else has done this and so can we. Someone else has walked the same path we’re on and lived by faith. So can we. These millions of believers before us can inspire and encourage us to live by faith.
Fifth, Hebrews 11 helps us to know we are being made perfect.
Those final two verses show us that we aren’t perfect and nor are the saints of the past. The aim isn’t perfection in this lifetime, the aim is to live by faith.
And so, we take encouragement that we are being made perfect through Christ, who uses our lives and our experiences to shape and mould us into more like him. This is also living by faith.
Sixth, Hebrews 11 helps us to know there is a better day.
I’m not sure what you’re going through right now but I suspect there’s something. Everyone is always dealing with something. With this being the case Hebrews 11 provides for us a hope. A future hope. A hope that one day things will be better, that one day we will be with God and it all will be made perfect. One day the acute pain of living now will be made into sustained enjoyment with God.
And perhaps this is the key.
For as we walk with God by faith we walk in the shadow of those gone before, encouraged and inspired by their faith.
Hebrews 11 is one of those chapters in the Bible that is packed with so much that it takes numerous readings to grasp its various teachings. It’s the chapter where the writer outlines all those significant biblical characters of the past, and describes briefly how they lived by faith, trusting and obeying God throughout their lifetime.
For me, stepping into Hebrews 11 is like walking into a museum. A museum with a long dimly lit corridor, with dark floorboards, and square-paned windows letting the light in. And as you walk down this corridor there are old paintings hanging on the walls. And along each side of the corridor there are white marble busts of significant leaders of history and important dignitaries sitting on top of pillars.
This is what I think of when I read Hebrews 11.
All these people from the Old Testament in painting or statue form, highlighting their status among the saints of the past. And with each of these saints we get a small glimpse into what they are commended for; what they have done to earn such a reputation to be written about hundreds of years after they have died.
To extend this museum illustration further, I can imagine that next to each painting or statue there sits a little plaque and as you wander down the corridor you can walk up to each of those plaque’s and read how they lived by faith. Next to each item there is a little inscription starting with “By faith…” and flowing into their individual commendation of how they lived by faith.
By faith Abel… By faith Enoch… By faith Noah… By faith Abraham… By faith Sarah…
And as we work our way through this chapter we come to an editor’s sidebar. Like one of those big signs at a museum that gives you a broader explanation of what’s going on, there in the middle of this corridor stands as sign with v13-16 on it.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
These words describe how all these people we read of in Hebrews 11 died knowing there was something better for them. They lived on earth as exiles, as people who were in the world but not of it. While the land was plentiful and the descendants numerous God had promised something better. This earth and life was a prototype of something greater. They knew there was something more to come.
This is why the writer can say in v16, “…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
And this resonates with the words of Revelation 21:1-5,
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
We know we live in a world that is broken. People are broken, governments are broken, organisations are broken. This results in a world where bad stuff happens, stuff that is not fair for the individual and the collective.
But here in v13-16 we are told of the future hope we can have as believers.
As followers of Jesus we recognise the reality of a broken world. A world broken by sin but a world being prepared for restoration and renewal through the coming again of Jesus Christ. For through Christ there is the promise of forgiveness for our own sin and shame. Through Christ there is the promise of being able to live by faith in relationship with God. Through Christ there is the promise of the restoration of the world. Through Christ is the promise of life-everlasting in the renewed creation of God.
In the same way as the Old Testament saints live by faith for what is to come, so too we live in the world as people who know there is greater to come (despite how bad it may look at times) as God prepares us for the restoration of all things.
I’m a big fan of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. I really enjoy reading the whole collection every so often, and at the end of the final book, The Last Battle, there is a depiction of heaven as the various characters and animals make their way to a renewed land. Lewis writes,
It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were somehow different — deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.
The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” (p154-155)
A vivid piece of writing, but also a great reminder that we do indeed live, by faith, looking forward to the Holy City, a better country, a heavenly one.
The other day I was out for my daily bout of exercise, the intentional walk to get out of the house and get the body moving, and as I passed one particular person in the street I noticed how enthusiastic they were in saying ‘hello’. It may have been a very brief interaction but through the tone of voice and the hand-waving I could tell that they were keen for the interaction. And it reminded me of the need for connection, particularly in these days when you never quite know how people are really doing and what they need.
However, connection is so needed for all of us, whether we are extroverted or introverted. The modern meaning of connection has really diminished the way we think about interacting with others. You see, connection is what I do when I plug my phone into it’s charger, or when I have a Zoom meeting, or when I message someone on social media. Connection in modern parlance is often lowered to online interactions that make us feel like we’ve interacted with someone but really we’ve just liked a post as we scroll through our feed. So instead, what we really need is a significant interaction whereby we are able to express our joy at seeing and speaking with another. The joy evident in the person I was walking by was palpable as they waved, said a big ‘hello’, and slowed down a little to look me in the eye.
It feels like this is lacking right now.
The Bible doesn’t use the word connection for interacting with others, perhaps it would if it was written today. But it certainly makes clear that humankind is made for human interactions. Relationships are a key to humanity and its sense of well-being. Relationships are what the story of God highlights, whether it’s between people, between nations, or between humanity and God himself.
Right back in the Creation story, in Genesis 2:18, we hear God’s word about the situation Adam finds himself in, ‘Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”’ It was evident, even from the beginning, that humankind was made for relationships, for significant ‘connection’, if we wish to use that word. Adam tried to ‘connect’ with the animals but none of them were sufficient enough. Instead, it was another human being that filled the relational tank and provided the connection needed to function in a healthy way.
We can’t read the Creation narrative without mentioning the relationship with God either. This was obviously severed significantly at the Fall, but it is one that humanity continues to wrestle with and desire throughout the Old and New Testaments. If you are a believer in Jesus then you will realise that it is through him we are able to have that restored relationship back with God.
But connection with others, with people in our communities, our friends, family, and neighbours is something we’ve been created for. Part of being human is to connect relationally with others. And that’s part of why this moment is so tough for so many.
Perhaps one of the practical steps we could take to help others during this time is rather than try to avoid interactions with one-another, is to actually acknowledge the presence of others. Whether it’s a wave, a nod, an enthusiastic ‘hello’, a ‘great to see you’, or some other human response to acknowledge them. When I’m out on my walk it is now a regular occurrence to find those walking toward me to move over to the other side of the road. I know it’s so we can all stay distant from each other for health reasons, however it’s a pretty sad state of affairs if walking by each other is now something to avoid.
With lockdown continuing there provides for us an opportunity to show something different. To impact our community by doing some small things while out and about. In sharing a connective moment with others while out for exercise or at the shops we might be able to be people who shine light into the lives of others in this challenging time.
Deflated, sad, disappointed, upset, anxious, depressed even. These are the kinds of emotions people in Melbourne are experiencing, and plenty more as well. Up and down on the COVID rollercoaster we go as we are given little freedoms before locking down again as outbreaks of this disease are made known to the authorities. This way of living doesn’t do much good for one’s health and wellbeing. The perpetual unknown of when the next lockdown might be is doing a number on the ‘nerves’, to use the old vernacular.
I’m not sure about you but I’ve had all the feels. The frustration, the sadness, the anxiety, and the general I don’t give a stuff. I know I’m not the only one. In fact, I was speaking with six others on a Zoom chat the other day and five of them mentioned they were all dealing with mental health issues in some capacity. Anecdotally, this is a significant percentage.
However, as I plug away at doing the things I need to do, whether it’s family life or church life, I keep reminding myself that the Lord is the Lord of the lockdown. It sounds cliche, I know. But in these days where there is a general despondency across the whole community, and in spite of the hardship this puts so many people and families in, it is important to be reminded that there is God who is over this. He is still sovereign and true, and as we work through these lockdowns we can still have hope because he is Lord.
Perhaps this is just me trying to grasp onto the hope that is required right now!
Hope is of course not gone, particularly when you compare our situation to others across the world. I certainly live in a healthy place, and a wealthy place, and have everything I need. I am grateful for this. Compared to other parts of the world we are doing so well that even having the ability to be in lockdown shows we’re very much in a place of privilege. Yet, this doesn’t negate the feelings, emotions, and realities that a lockdown brings. It is hard, it is painful, and it is frustrating. But there is hope, not only because of the ability to lead a life here in Melbourne in the future but also because of the greater hope we have in our Lord.
I have been reading through the book of Genesis these past couple of weeks and in chapter 15 there is a key reminder of the promises God gives Abram. He has made a covenant with Abram, that he will be father to multitudes from his own seed. However, Abram continues to want confirmation of this promise and to be reminded of it again (It’d already been promised in chapter 12). We are often like Abram, needing to be reminded of what God has promised us. And in his promises through his scriptures he has told us that he is with us, that he is listening to us, that he is caring and compassionate to us, and that he is kind and gracious toward us.
This compassionate and caring God displays this to us through Jesus, and the commitment of love he has toward his people by the cross. For it is in the cross we find the reflection of God’s incredible compassion, care, kindness, and grace towards his creation. When we come to the Lord and are in a mess because the lockdown has been extended, or the numbers aren’t looking great, then we can know that he is still with us and still cares. His faithfulness and compassion are what we are to trust and hope in because that is what will sustain us to live lives worthy of his name, even in lockdown.
A couple of months ago I had a book review of Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating a Thankful Heart In All Circumstances by Sam Crabtree published on The Gospel Coalition (AU) website.
Ironically I read this while Melbourne was in its fourth lockdown, of which we’ve never really come out. So I will confess I wasn’t that impressed with the beginning of the book but as I read it more I found it did do something within me. It reminded me that there is reason for thankfulness and not simply being a grump for the situations we find ourselves in. It requires a mindset change, an attitudinal change.
As I say in the final few paragraphs of the review:
“So if you would like your heart to opened and exposed—perhaps even have a metal rake run over it—this book will do you a world of good.
I will confess I didn’t like every part of it. I felt the tone lacked a certain pastoral quality, and that it was overly firm in some places where a bit more grey and grace would have been helpful. For example, Crabtree seems to write off all complaining and frustration as being ungrateful for what God has given us. He doesn’t give room for complaint and lament like many of the Psalms we read, and almost suggests we need to ignore these types of feelings, tell them to shut up, and move on. Further, there was some discussion about topics that seemed unnecessary and forced in relation to the main themes. These make moments in this book seem simplistic and reductionistic at times.”
I’ve been playing AFL SuperCoach for around 12-13 years now. It’s a fun little hobby of mine that happens during the AFL season. I take it more seriously that I probably should, but in the process have made some good connections and had some traditional rivalries with mates. And let’s be honest, it’s a good bit of wholesome fun.
For a long time I’ve been a keen listener of the Coaches Panel podcast, and a reader of their regular posts. I’m also a patreon member for the Coaches Panel too, which just shows I take it all too seriously. For the uninitiated, this means I pay them money to support them, they give me patreon-only access to their content.
But…the big news this week is that I’ve started writing for them. I’ve begun a series that will come out on a Monday (or when the round finished) giving a SuperCoach wrap-up from the weekend just gone. It’s a bit of fun and a new writing avenue, and I’m looking forward to having a good play around with the content I provide through it. If you’re a SuperCoach player, come on over and have a read. The weekend wrap-up for round one was published a few days ago.
It is certainly difficult to go through this Psalm without recognising the call to praise. The beginning and the ending couch this Psalm in words to encourage praise.
Note how personal the writer King David is as he expresses himself.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” in v1-2.
And in v20-22,
“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.”
This is something deeply personal, something coming deep from within here. It is like David is willing himself to praise.
There are times, aren’t there, when we have to will ourselves to do something. Whether it is chores around the house to trying to work through our emotions in a lockdown due to a global pandemic. Here David sounds like he is willing himself to praise. Like the marathon runner willing herself to get to the finish line so too David is willing himself to praise.
Often praise, encouragement and thanks don’t come easy. Often we can be so consumed with our own self and all the problems we have to deal with that we soon forget or fall out of habit of praise, of thankfulness, of gratitude. Here we get the sense of David, writing in reflection from years of experience, willing himself to praise God for who he is and what he has done.
For David realises all of what God has done. Not only for him personally, but also for the whole of humanity. He remembers God and all his deeds and dwells on the action of his compassionate God, which in turn draws him to praise.
As we close this three-part series on Psalm 103 I encourage you to remember, dwell, and praise God this week.
It has been a tough 12 months.
You may have taken the opportunity to sit with God and spend more time with him this year. But, in the conversations I’m having with people I suspect the majority have not. And so I wonder whether this might be a good time to spend some time with the Lord.
If you’re one who is in a habit of doing so, I encourage you to keep going.
But, if you’re one who hasn’t sat with God, opened his scriptures, read and thought of the things of God in a while then I encourage you to do so this week.
Take 30-60 minutes. Open a Psalm, maybe even this one. Write down a few things that strike you as you read it. Pray about what is on your heart. Express those fears and worries and anxieties to God. And dwell for a period of time, something we’re not used to, on your compassionate God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.
Because when you do, experience tells me that the Lord will meet you where you are at and will draw you toward praise just as David is here.
It will do your soul and your life much benefit.
This is the third of a three-part series on Psalm 103. The first post, ‘Remember The Lord’, can be found here. And the second, ‘Dwell on The Lord’, is here.